My Thoughts: Jiu-jitsu and Competition for Kids

Two weeks ago, Texas Ground Control hosted a small, local competition in Cedar Park. I wasn’t very “vocal” about it. Rather, I kept it relatively quiet,  making a few announcements in class as opposed to a full on, email blast style promotion. I was surprised to find that even with word of mouth, we had 8 kids who wanted to get after it. I was thrilled!

The truth is, I love competition. I am a competitor myself though currently on hiatus to focus all of my efforts on my students and building Gracie Barra Lakeway. The week prior to this kids competition, we had 8 adult students register for another, big competition. For perspective, Gracie Barra Lakeway has never had more than 3 adult students compete for a single competition.

So Why do I not Push Competition?

I arrived at Gracie Barra Lakeway three and a half years ago, excited to find that the old coaches pushed competition. There was a highly competitive culture there; most of the kids would register for every local competition and thus, they trained hard.

Over (a short) time, however, these highly competitive kids started to burn out and eventually quit jiu-jitsu. It wasn’t fun for them anymore. I soon realized that in most cases, pushing a “competition culture” was unsustainable.

I decided to stick to the roots of Jiu-jitsu: Focus on self-defense and fundamentals of Jiu-jitsu and let the competition aspect develop itself. What we see now is a school that is growing with an outstanding community of students and their families.

As we are seeing now, sticking with the fundamentals has facilitated our school’s culture and the competition component is coming into fruition with kids who want to push hard and compete on their own accord –not because a coach is creating it but because they are creating it themselves.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, I love competition. I encourage everyone to compete and I believe that competition makes stronger practitioners. With competition, though, it’s best to let the students make that decision.  It is the instructor’s duty to teach the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu so that everyone can learn and enjoy the process. In time, the competitors will emerge and so will the opportunity to develop that group individually.